High street retailer Sports Direct to drop its ‘six strike’ policy…

…and retail staff will be offered guaranteed hours, rather than zero-hours contracts

Sports Direct has apologised over the way it treated its employees and has announced that retail staff will be offered guaranteed hours, rather than the current zero-hours contracts.

The high street retailer says that it will also axe the ‘six strikes and you’re out’ policy, which meant that members of staff could be fired for such things as; taking too long on toilet breaks, excessive chatting, or for taking time off when a child was unwell.

The firm admitted in a statement that there were “serious shortcomings… in working practices in [the] warehouse, which the board deeply regrets and apologises for”.

Sports Direct to get rid of 'six strikes'policy and zero-hours contracts

Sports Direct to offer 12 hour contracts

The company also acknowledged that their ‘six strikes’ policy was a “blunt instrument that can leave too much subjectivity in the hands of a few.” A fairer system has now been planned, in which staff will be treated with “dignity, respect and fairness.”

However, The Guardian, who were responsible for uncovering the difficult working practices at Sports Direct in 2015, reported that the company has not offered guaranteed hours to four thousand of its agency workers, who work at its warehouse in Derbyshire.

The company has in the past admitted that some of its staff were paid less than minimum wage but promised to increase pay and said that underpayment was down to an administrative error.

Some other company changes have been announced including, less staff searches on workers leaving the warehouse and the number of brands the staff are banned from wearing, is set to be reduced from eight hundred to thirty.

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Zero-hour contracts: a contentious employment law issue

How the Sports Direct scandal has caused an outcry against zero-hour contracts

Following the recent Sports Direct scandal, which exposed the appalling working conditions endured by Sports Direct warehouse staff, the controversial issue of zero-hour contracts is back firmly in the limelight. Here we discuss the nature of zero-hour contracts in relation to the Sports Direct exposé.

The Guardian’s investigation into the international sports retailer, Sports Direct, revealed an environment that was ruled by fear; a fear that was propelled by the powerlessness of workers employed under zero-hour contracts.

The exposé made headlines last week, as founder and director of the firm, Mark Ashley admitted breaching a number of employment laws, including not paying his warehouse employees in line with the national minimum wage.

The Guardian found that workers at Sports Direct’s main warehouse were required to stay behind after shifts for up to 20 minutes without payment, while they queued up to be searched by paranoid management.

Employees were also docked 15 minutes of pay when they clocked in just a minute late, and were hounded by constant tannoy announcements urging them to work faster. On a more sinister note, reports suggest a number of health and safety issues, including the birth of a baby in the warehouse toilets that went ignored.

Sports Direct management felt it could operate in this immoral manner because 80 per cent of its workers are employed on zero-hour contracts, which renders them powerless due to the unstable nature of their employment.

Those who kick up a fuss are at risk of being given no working hours week after week from irritated management, and yet they are still classed as employed in the eyes of the Department for Work and Pensions, meaning they are not entitled to job seeker’s allowance if they quit to find a more desirable position.

Although employees with a zero-hour contract are entitled to annual leave and the national living wage, they are often treated as sub-standard workers and are excluded from bonuses and other employee benefits that a company may offer.

In 2015, the Labour Force Survey found that 744,000 people are employed on a zero-hour contract, but this figure is thought to be much higher in reality. There are now calls from MPs to ban this type of employment contract, but Prime Minister David Cameron said there are currently no plans to do so.

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